Thickness Distribution of Glenohumeral Joint Cartilage: A Normal Value Study on Asymptomatic Volunteers Using 3-Tesla Magnetic Resonance Tomography

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High-resolution 3-dimensional cartilage-specific magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed at 3 T to test the following hypotheses: (1) there is a nonuniform cartilage thickness distribution both on the proximal humerus and on the glenoid surface and (2) the glenohumeral joint as a combined system is congruent with the level of the joint cartilage surface without substantial radial mismatch. Inclusion of 38 volunteers (19 females, mean age 24.34 ± 2.22 years; range 21-29 years) in a prospective study. Measurements of: cartilage thickness in 3 regions and 3 zones; radius of both circles (glenoid and humeral cartilage) for congruency calculation using 3-T MRI with 3-dimensional dual-echo steady-state sequence with water excitation. A homogenous mean cartilage thickness (1.2-1.5 mm) and slightly higher values for the glenoidal articulating surface radii both in the mid-paracoronar section (2.4 vs. 2.1 cm, P < 0.001) and in the mid-paraaxial section (2.4 vs. 2.1 cm, P < 0.001) compared with the humeral side were observed. The concept of a radial mismatch between the humeral head and the glenoid in healthy human subjects can be confirmed. This study provides normative data for the comparison of joint cartilage changes at the shoulder for future studies.

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